Tag Archives: C

What does endianness have to do with Bitcoins

The order of the byte appears is called the endianness in computer technology. This term stem from processor architecture design, for example, x86 and the classic 6502 is little endian, while S/360 and SPARC are big endian. ARM processors like the one powering the Beagleboard SBC I am happy with from Yubikey to the R statistics package can be configured to run either.

At the end of the day, programs are compiled and linked to instruction sets for the hardware processor to execute. But that is not the end of the story for software developers. Apart from the hardware instruction sets there are also endianness in file. Any developers having involved in any form of low level file processing, in classic or modern programming languages alike, should be very familiar with this.

Take the bitcoin file as en example, the hex dump below is the genesis bitcoin with the timestamp field highlighted in yellow.


On file it reads 29AB5F49, but for the sake of endianness, this value should be interpreted as 495FAB29 in hexadecimal, and the corresponding decimal value is 1231006505. Converting this decimal value timestamp into human readable date:

It is quite trivial to convert from one to another through programming languages and a classic C example as simple as the below macro will do the job.


In Python:


Statistical test on C code performance

While curious on how C code are optimized by compiler on mathematical functions, two implementations of the standard normal distribution are compared in terms of performance. The aim is to provide insight on how the generated machine code performs, without having to actually inspecting them. The function is an approximation function coded in standard C. It should be noted that both functions implement the same approximation, but the actual equation is a little bit different in terms of number of multiplication operator. The first implementation is with less multiplication operators:

While the second one is a modified version with more multiplication operators, e.g. expanding k5 to k*k*k*k*k.

A scaffolding test rig is used to loop 10 million times, within it, the approximation function is called from 0 to 1 in steps of 0.1. Visual Studio is used for the code compilation, and 20 samples are collected from each of the two functions. For the analysis, the TI-84 Pocket SE is used to carry out 2-sample T test in the procedure below:


By evaluating the p-value, It looks like the first version of more compact C code performed better and perhaps there is little the compiler can help here.